Sustainability: Why it makes good business sense

Can you remember a day in which you did not read or hear anything about sustainability? I suspect that just like me, you will have a difficult time in doing so.

Over the past decade sustainability has increasingly become part of our lives, our shopping behaviour, our home lives and our conversations. Without a second thought we now sort our recycled items from our garbage, drink our coffee from recycled paper cups and take our own shopping bags to the grocery store. We wear clothes made of recycled plastic bottles and ask if the salad is organic at our local restaurant.

As consumers, our behaviour shifted when we became aware of the impact of plastic in our oceans and the environmental benefits of reusing materials such as paper and plastic bottles. Personally, I was made especially aware of this when I volunteered at an ocean conservation program in Mexico, where the impact of plastic and waste in our beautiful oceans brought me to tears.

The coffee, fashion and jewellery industries globally have been focusing on sustainability for over a decade. The beauty industry however has been slow to adopt sustainable practices. I believe this is a wonderful opportunity for salons to connect with their clients and in doing so, can even provide a growth opportunity for salons who incorporate sustainable practices into their offering.

Cosmetics Business reports that in a poll conducted by weDo/ Professional, the sustainable professional arm of hair care brand Wella, 2,000 adults were asked about sustainability and beauty. The findings were eye-opening.

They found that 54% of consumers said they consider sustainability a key factor when buying beauty, hair and skin care products, with more than half (56%) believing it is important to look for products with recyclable packaging and 44% concerned about choosing products that are cruelty-free. However, 64% of these consumers say they found it difficult to buy sustainable beauty products.

Is your salon addressing any of these opportunities? It may be simpler than you think to start to incorporate sustainable practices into your salon operations. To help you start the journey, here are some ‘easy-to-implement’ strategies for your salon.

1. Just like at home, sort your salon waste for recycling

Sort foils, paper, plastic and hair. Yes, even hair can be recycled! Create sorting stations in your salon and encourage staff and clients to use them.

2. Reduce water and energy consumption in your salon

This is probably the easiest to implement and will add money to your bottom line in savings. Using efficient water shower heads at your basins and training staff not to leave water running while they mix or apply product will help to save water. Install energy efficient light bulbs, or even motion detecting lighting, that switches off when there is no movement, will reduce your electricity bill. Winters in the Middle East bring beautiful temperatures and breezes, so opt to switch off the AC’s and open the windows or doors where possible.

3. Incorporate organic or vegan products into your offering

Several salon beauty brands now offer organic or vegan options in their hair and skincare ranges, as well as reuse and refill product lines. These can be a key point of differentiation for a younger clientele and provides an opportunity for clients to return to your salon on a regular basis.

4. Use sustainable and eco-friendly hair tools

Exchange hair foils (that can take up to 400 years to decompose) for biodegradable paper sheets. Consider buying your scissors from suppliers who actively give back such as Leaf Scissors, who plant a tree for every pair of scissors sold.

5. Source ethically

Source high volume salon consumables like cotton wool, cotton buds, tissue and couch roll from manufacturers that use ethical employment practices and sustainable farming methods. Whenever possible, source biodegradable consumables.

6. Use non-toxic, eco-friendly cleaning products in your salon

We can now choose from a wide selection of natural and effective cleaning products that are effective, smell incredible and are good for the environment. Try to replace some of the harsher chemical cleaning products you use in your salon with a biodegradable and sustainably sourced product instead.

7. Offer fair-trade tea and coffee, water in recycled bottles or filtered tap water.

Delight your clients with a tea or coffee that is good for society and the planet! With several suppliers of fair-trade tea and coffee in the Middle East, it’s an easy switch to make. Encourage your clients to bring their own bottles of water, or offer to fill up their bottles with fresh, filtered water, reminding them why you are doing so will help to gain their support.

8. Provide staff training on the importance of sustainability and better consumption habits.

It is vital that you bring your team onboard with any strategy you wish to implement, but it is especially important with a sustainability strategy, which has a much better chance of succeeding if they are onboard and supportive of the concept.

9. Bring plenty of oxygen releasing plants into your salon or plant an insect or bee friendly garden.

Lush, healthy plants bring a special touch to any space but be sure to select plants that release oxygen during the day such as Aloe Vera, Snake Plant, Orchids and Peace Lily.

If your salon is located in a villa, plant insect friendly plants in the garden and opt for a biodegradable and bee friendly insect spray.

10. Tell your clients about what you are doing to support the environment and society as a whole!

Tell your clients what you are doing to be more sustainable and why you are doing it. Ask them for ideas and suggestions, and encourage them to take this journey with you. Your clients will appreciate your efforts and the opportunity to contribute to something that improves the world for us all.

11. Collaborate with competitors

This may sound counter intuitive, however, as with coffee growers and fashion retailers, the beauty industry has an opportunity to collaborate with competitors to shift the industry as a whole towards a more sustainable future. Opportunities for collaboration can be combining recycling waste and contracting an industry recycling partner, coming together as an industry to shift policies at a local and government level or simply sharing of knowledge and experience of our individual journeys towards a more sustainable future.

The list of opportunities to enhance your salon’s sustainability credentials is vast and exciting. On the supply side, salon beauty brands are developing products, packaging and systems that are sustainable and good for the environment. On the demand side, salon clients have already adopted a wide variety of sustainable practices into other areas of their lifestyle. As an industry we just need to step into the gap this has created. There is no need to worry about or delay implementing sustainability practices into your salon business. In fact, I suspect that in doing so, you will find a new and wonderful way to engage with your staff and clients, and the benefits of doing so will soon be seen in your business and our environment.